Okay guys, I’m going to really realistic here. The more I push back my posts, the more they may just never happen. So skipping Yangshuo (but not forever), I will fastforward with a post of the most recent trip to Xi An. We were scheduled to sleep for a night, but had to do another emergency night because we missed the train (!!). Will talk about that later. For now, lets talk about all initial plans to Xi An.
Booked Xi An on quite a random note. We were just like “Let’s go somewhere – maybe Xi An”, then the trip became true. Initially I thought I’ve been to Xi An because its where the Teracotta armies are most famous for. I remember going to this place with the teracotta armies – but they turned out to be fakes, and I have actually NEVER been to Xi An. Lesson of the day : Never bring your kids travelling, and expecting them to remember anything years later.
We had the choice of choosing between sleepover rides and bullet train. I HAD to go for the sleepover rides, simply because I have never been on one. China sounds like the perfect place to get an adventure out of a sleepover ride. These trains are usually filled with locals so if you want to get a taste of China, this is it. We got the night train (naturally) and was only scheduled to arrive 14 hours later. Train departed at about 10PM and we arrived the next day at about 1PM.
Ultimately disappointed because I realised at the beginning of the trip, and sometimes in between, my photos were super blur because I had the camera’s settings screwed up. They look perfectly fine in the small screen, but when I enlarge them they are almost undistinguishable. Well, not THAT bad – but still pretty bad.
You’d have to show your tickets to enter the area!
Everybody going back. So many of them with sacks and sacks of unidentified stuff.
Waking up to this at 5.30AM in the morning, because the Chinese are such earlybirds.
People just swinging here and there. And it smelt incredibly China. Only we know what that means.
This kind bunkmate told us so much about Xi An, including the places we have to go and such. Well, coming to China – I must be really lucky, because despite all the horror stories I’ve heard, I’ve really only been meeting kind people. They are really helpful when they can. This one borrowed Henry a charger when he saw him going around trying to find a plug. They could barely communicate!
He also told us to make sure to eat Piang Piang Mian (Noodles). We asked why – he said the character itself was special. And that was what made the noodle special. “How special?”, I asked. He looked up the character and showed me why:-
This is one of the MOST massive Chinese characters with 57 strokes.
And there is no simplified version. I promised that I would look out for it!
Yam Instant Noodles for breakfast. Er?
This lady came then night before so that she could keep our tickets in exchange for this card. Next morning, she comes back to wake us up to get down the train so nobody misses the stop. The train keeps on going to ChengDu! All four of us were awake a few hours before but went back to bed and only woke up when she came.
Henry, I, Marian and France.
20 yuan for a plate of rice! Caught this right before I got off the train.
Heading down, we were probably imagining a much developed Xi An upon arrival. However when we got off the train, the weather was extremely gloomy, and the train station reminded me so much of wet markets. Well, Xi An used to be the capital of China – so I was expecting a little bit of marbled floors and air condition to welcome tourists of the place. Maybe not.
Wet dirty floors to welcome us. Okay.
Argh, Beijing seldom rains – so coming to this was really upsetting. We were also supposed to be picked up by the hostel people (free service) but I guess we had a miscommunication – they don’t pick people up after 1PM. However, we called them and they had someone who could speak pretty good English. She thought us how to get on the bus and walk towards it. Pretty straightforward!
Bus ride was 1 yuan. So cheeky, Henry (who was obviously a foreigner) asked how much and he said 2 yuan!
This was our hostel – Han Tang Inn. Very nice and cosy place. It was about RMB 60 per night as we took the bunk beds. Pretty cheap! Very clean as well too.
Walking pass another room that was being cleaned up by the fuwuyuan.
Our room, which was REALLY nice. But look at the quality of my photo 🙁
We were told not to walk on the floor with wet feet from the showers haha! Our legs were soaked from the rain and puddles so it didn’t make much of a difference. France came up with a brilliant idea to wrap our feet with plastic bags so at least our socks wouldn’t get soaked. So we started our Operation by asking for plastic bags from the receptionists (who seemed extremely puzzled why we needed so many)
After washing and prepping up our ‘shoe protectors’, we headed out for some food!
I was always on the lookout for “Piang Piang” noodles, and found a couple of them! Pretty satisfied. I love trying stuff that locals suggest, it gives you this satisfactory feeling as compared to finding something really delicious by yourself. We couldn’t find it first thing, but was already quite hungry. Our first tourist spot was the Muslim Street (yeap, that means no pork!) and came by this place where they sold beef noodles that smelt pretty good.
Man, I love this! It was sour and spicy beef noodles. Wasn’t too spicy too, just enough for taste. I forgot to take a photo if it but here’s one after I almost finished.
Apparently the garlics by the side are snacks that the locals eat while waiting for food. (??
These are supposed to be healthy drinks, but I’m not sure about China.
Spotted the Piang!
Xi An loves using these hugeeee pots!
Yau Char Kuay for the Chinese Muslims.
Another PIANG PIANG noodle!
We then headed for the Drum Tower. There were two towers, the other was the Bell Tower. Decided to just go for one since they were of the same height, but Drum tower is possibly more interesting. Just when we were about to go up, we decided not to go now and save it for later when its dark. Good thing we did! Because it was so much more beautiful at night!
So we headed for the City Walls of Xi An. It is largest ancient military defensive systems in the world, and the most complete one you can find in China. I read that these walls were intiially built with layers and layers of dirt, and lime with glutinous rice!! Then they started to rebuilt it with bricks and it is what it is right now after three different restorations. You can get on top of these walls from the main gates of every direction of the city. We didn’t really know how to get up, and wasn’t sure if we were allowed in because nobody was walking on it – probably because it was raining.
When we finally found the place after some bus rides and hazardous jaywalking, the place was still open but the super non enthusiastic counter receptionist told us that the main attractions are now closed and we wouldn’t be able to do anything much even if we bought a ticket in – so we didnt. Walked around the area feeling abit lost, we didn’t know what else to do. There was a Muslim museum back where we had our beef noodles but didn’t really feel like it. Was also a tad too early for Drum Towers. Looked at the map and found the local museum to be nearby so we headed towards it. Halfway, Marian and France came by shops where they were selling stamps that would have your name carved on it. We spent a good 30-45 minutes there waiting (and resting!) for it to be done while they waited for their stamps to be ready. It turned out to be REALLY nice, I wish I got one now. Only costed about RMB 75 I think, and we got free tea.
We casually mentioned that we wanted to go to a cafe while waiting for him to carve so he offered us fresh Chinese tea.
Finally it was time for Drum Tower!
From the tower you can oversee the whole city of Xi An, and its initial purpose was that the huge drum at the centre of the tower was beat at sunset to indicate the end of the day.There are drum shows in the day, but because we went a tad too late everyone already xia ban (got off work). We weren’t allowed to hit the drums on display – but we still did anyway. The drums all had super traditional Chinese writings painted on them, that signified the drums for different occasions. Very very special, some drums are even dated a few thousands of years back!
It was 35 yuan per entrance, but we got it half price as students with our student cards! Awesome.
View from the stairways of the tower.
Definitely have to come here when the sky turns dark!
Such posers, you guys.
It was still raining but it didn’t break out spirits!
So pretty, but I heard the Drum tower was demolished and rebuilt numerous times.
After our first offiical touristic activity, we were hungry again. From the top of the tower I spotted this decent Piang Piang noodle restaurant, we charged ahead for dinner.
Piang Piang Noodles!
The reason why there called Piang Piang noodles, is that when the chefs make it – it makes this loud sound against the metal table. “Piang, piang, piang, piang”. Initially thought the sound comes from eating it, so we tried slurping it with different ways but obviously didnt’ work.
The next day, we went to the Terracota Army site.
But I’m going to leave this amazing post for the next post because it deserves its own limelight! We still had some time after the Terracota’s before our train at 5.30PM. The trip here was only about 45 minutes so we still had about 3 hours to travel around. Decided to go back up to the wall since it was a sunny day – and didn’t regret it! It was a short trip but worth it – given its history.
Good thing we came now! Not only we got yet another student price, we got it before they raised the price!
The Chinese officials always look like they hate their job. Well, they do get paid very little.
Way up to the huge walls.
From above the walls.
They also had buggy service for the people who were lazy, or can’t walk the whole thing.
We weren’t too greedy with lengths, cause we had a train to catch – so we did this! I almost NEVER succeed with jump shots.
The only one were I, kind of, succeeded.
Well we took about 20 of them, do you want to see all of it? Haha.
Time for the train!
We had about 1.5 hours left so we decided to leave the place, so we can get our KFC and eat on the train.
A lunchbox in the bullet train costs about RMB 45, only for rice and some shredded beef so we wanted to be very smart!
We took the oddest spot in the bus, it was just this little corner – nobody would’ve realised if they didn’t look harder.
France couldn’t sit cause he was too tall, so he had to go where the stairs were so he gets some head space. LOL.
Dodgy buses are fun, when you’re travelling.
This was probably the last moment when we smiled for the next few hours. Here’s why.
Halfway buying KFC, which was just right opposite the train station, – and being so delightful about how we had perfect timing, Henry had a quick look at the ticket and realised that the station was North! And we were buying KFC infront of the West station. We had about 40 minutes before our train leaves so we panicked!! Trains never wait for anybody and they usually leave early!
After getting the super slow KFC, we sped out asking for cabbies to take us to the train station. So many black cab drivers started to approach us – despite being in desperation we never bothered to take up their offer. Finally got a cab and hopped in. Demanded that he goes to the North station FAST – we only had 30 minutes before the train left. But when we asked how long would it take for us to get there – cabbie said “Approximately 30 minutes, what time’s your train?”
Frankly, I freaked out inside. This was a bullet train and I know they never give refunds, and it was quite an expensive ticket. I wasn’t willing to give up the hope of still catching the train. There were so many lights in between, and while we were sort of speeding there I had to Google up so many refunding option advice sites – but none of them appeared. Time checked every five minutes but the car just kept stopping, traffic light after traffic light. We told ourselves, “Train was at 5.50PM, so if we arrived at 4.47PM – we may still make it if we dash into the station”
By 5.45PM, we still couldn’t see signs of the station, and I used Iphone’s shitty map to locate how far we were from the station. It was right up ahead!!
5.46PM, we could see it but there was another traffic light. Man, 3 minutes – we MIGHT just make it. It was RIGHT infront of us. Henry had his RMB 100 note ready (the driver asked for a lum sum, advantage takers) and threw it at the driver while we literally jumped off a moving car when we arrived at the station.
It was 5.48PM.
I prayed so hard inside. We only had two minutes. God never gave me a pair of legs that could run – I knew I was never going to make it. Henry and France can obviously run, and Marian was always very athletic. France took my bag and I was free to run as fast as I could. Halfway running towards our departing lounge, I’m sure it was only 5:49PM – we heard the announcement.
“Bullet train leaving for Beijing, is now departing”
I scanned through all entrances while running (at a normal person’s jogging speed), and realised the attendees were all gone and gates were all closed. The janitor knew at one glance that we were rushing for the Beijing train – shouted at us to not bother, because the train has already left. We still had that small tint of hope that it may just be there.
I slowly stopped running, whereas the others were already far ahead trying to hold up the gates. And knew what was happening to us.
We missed the train.
Few hundreds yuan worth. Man!!
Anyway, instead of just crawling up a corner we decided to head towards the ticketing counter. May just be tough luck, since tickets never get refunded if the train has left. We were in such a rush, the escalator going down to where the ticketing office was shut down and blocked. There wasn’t any nearby stairway for us to head down. Semi angry and disappointed us just pushed the stands blocking the escalators aside and stormed down the escalators. The officers who saw us were shouting at us from afar but we knew the later we were, the less chances of getting refunded.
When we at the ticketing office, I (kind of) swirved right infront of everyone (It’s China) and requested for a refund. Told the counter that the entrances closed even before 5:50PM so it’s definitely not our fault. She looked at us for abit, and checked the time. Probably only 3-4 minutes after departure time, so she bought our story and gave us a refund – FOR FREE!!
It was scheduled to leave at 7.50AM next morning, a little more than 12 hours from then. I thanked God endless amount of times. I always knew I was blessed, but never this blessed! This was more than plain luck. KFC burgers were still in our hands – and it nearly became the most expensive KFC set we would have ever eaten. We found a seat nearby, that had absolutely NOBODY.
We sat down.
Opened up our burger boxes, caught our breathes.
And laughed. And laughed. And laughed.
Much later, after a satisfying calming meal – we had to decide what to do now. The trip back to the city where we were would cost us another RMB 100. Marian and I were all up for just spending the rest of the day in the train station, it was clean – plus it’ll be another experience and story to tell. However, the boys were strongly against it – wanted a comfortable place to sleep at. So funny, how the preferences of both genders have become.
After some persuasion, we decided “Okay, you guys can look up hostels – and if there are any cheap ones we should go“.
And took photos to remember this silly moment.
Look at France looking up for hostels on his phone.
The boys were not impressed that we wanted to stayover.
They never found any, given the poor network and non existant Wifi available in the train station. So they gave up and agreed that sleeping over at the empty McDnonalds wasn’t such a bad idea afterall (pats them on back). France and Henry thought they would have to work their magic on the cashiers to get the private passwords to their Wifi if we were to stay the night – only to find out that the whole train station closes by 9PM. It was already about 7PM, and we only had two hours more.
This meant we HAD to get a hostel, and already wasted some hours just lazing around when we could have checked in a hostel and rest comfortably. Well, if we knew we had to check in somewhere – we should have done it early to make it valuable, right?
Look how tired we’ve become! My eyes look so extremely Pandafied.
Anyway, we still managed to find this really dodgy place to stay in in a building. There were cockroaches falling of the elevator and we were hoping for the best. But it turned out to be so clean and nice – look at my bed! Paid another RMB 60 for this, pretty good deal for such a nice place! We only had 8 hours to rest, and made sure to wake up first thing in the morning to catch the first subway to the train station.
And we managed to get on the train